I have a confession to make. I have not always felt confident about my personal style. In fact, I was almost 30 years old before I found a look that felt deliciously right to me. This comes as a surprise to many since there’s a common expectation that all image consultants have had a flair for fashion since birth and used to dress her friends as a teen, shopped ‘til they dropped after school, etc. That was not true for me. (Just take one look at the picture here (I was in my early 20’s) to know that I was clueless! Me in pink – what was I thinking and even though vests were in…well, enough said!)
In fact, I don’t remember much about my clothes when I was growing up. I didn’t hate my clothes but they didn’t thrill me either. I tend to blame that on the decade in which I grew up (I was a teen in the 1970’s), and the fact that I lived in the little, modest town of Feeding Hills. The fashion thing eluded me (perhaps because I didn’t have access to the resources available now), but I did have a passion for changing my hairstyles regularly (I am lucky to have lots of thick red hair) – it was my form of self-expression – and I still do as you can see in the photos of me on my website.
I suspect part of the problem was that mini skirts were in style back then (in fact, they were the only length in style at the time), and I just don’t have the legs for short skirts. (Trust me, I don’t!) And, back then we were required to wear skirts to school (pants were not allowed except the winter of my senior year when it was so cold we had red knees every day so they gave in). I am knock-kneed, my legs are white with freckles, and I’m pigeon-toed (especially in my left foot). Not exactly the ideal legs for short skirts, and I was extremely sensitive about them! Of course, I have since learned exactly what length skirt is flattering. I always wear stockings (except casually in the hot weather (and believe me, that was not an easy transition for me)), and of course my choice of shoes is critical to finish the outfit. Not knowing any of that back then, I just felt embarrassed.
When I was in high school, I had a friend who had a wonderful flair for fashion and the delightful attitude to go with her wardrobe – she always looked totally at ease in whatever she was wearing. (I have no idea if she felt comfortable but she always gave that impression.) Next to her I felt a bit like a fashion misfit (to be fair, she never made me feel that way – it was all my doing by comparing myself and longing for something more). No matter how I put things together they never seemed to have the same effect.
I also never wore makeup except for mascara. I was born with blonde eyelashes and eyebrows that are nearly invisible without some enhancement (and of course, two of my best friends had long dark eyelashes!) so I have worn mascara from the time I was 13. That was the extent of my makeup routine unless you count the one time in junior high when my mom let me wear lipstick (pink, yikes!) to school, and the kids made fun of me.
There was, however, always something about the fashion industry that intrigued me. When I was a freshman in college I did something that most of my college friends thought was crazy. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why I did it, but because I was slender and my mom’s friends told me I was attractive (not something I had thought about myself on my own), I entered a pageant. All hail, Miss Food Mart! I LOVED wearing the evening gown (don’t get me started on the bathing suit competition) and I goofed a bit on my talent (a story for another time). Wearing that gown I felt totally in my element. But, obviously, I could not wear an evening gown everywhere, and it took me another 10 years before I figured out how to translate that feeling into everyday clothes. (In case you’re wondering, I came in second runner-up.)
After college I went to modeling school (huge waste of time from a fashion standpoint except for a big “ah-ha” self-esteem moment that later helped me launch my business*), then I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Back in the 1970’s that was the earthy-crunchy capital of the world! I had fun doing contra-dancing (and dressed accordingly (still not me!)) and then went super-natural (my defiant phase (and still not me)) in an effort to find a look that felt right to me (see photo to left for my super-natural phase).
During those first few years in Cambridge I worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Biology Dept. not as a researcher but as a word processor (a glorified typist (I could type 120 wpm) where I learned all my computer skills!). Everyone (as you can see from the picture) wore super casual clothes and I, wanting to fit in and not knowing what else to wear, did the same.
This was SO not me but I was lost!
Finally, yay, I discovered my style when I went to a 3-day “fashion, color & image” seminar a few months before my 30th birthday. My future mentor, Nevena Cranney, taught me about style, design, color, balance, makeup…you name it. I felt like I had been reborn. Gone were my funky sweaters, my Birkenstocks (yup, the original ones), and blue jeans (which I never found to be comfortable (before stretch!) anyway). I was in my element and there was no stopping me!
The picture of me at my desk was taken less than a year after the other photo and while there was much tweaking to be done (hey, it was still the 1980′s, and I had been an image consultant for all of 5 minutes!) I had never felt better! It was amusing to watch the surprised looks on the faces of my friends and family and the whispers behind my back at work as everyone expressed bewilderment at my new look. But, I felt amazing and, in the end, they were all supportive and happy for me or they just ignored me.
Within a short amount of time (still the 1980′s) my look evolved into something more sophisticated.
All of this is to say that I spent the first 30 years of my life trying to understand how to navigate the world of fashion – and not doing a particularly good job of it. Now I know it doesn’t have to take nearly that long!
I do not regret any of my opportunities for personal exploration – they all led me to where I am now. I have an appreciation for what it feels like to want to look and feel great but not know how to do it. I also admire many different looks and styles and know first hand that not all of them work for me.
How did this translate into a business for me?
I became Nevena’s shadow for several years as I ran her workshops, became her right-hand consultant and learned everything she taught me. I watched her transform women and learned from the best. That was the beginning of my business. I now guide women through the process of creating a look they love—a journey I once took myself. I love the feeling of watching someone blossom and transform before their very eyes!
How can my journey help you?
Are you newly or chronically fashion challenged? Have you nearly given up on finding a look you love? Please don’t. Everyone can (and deserves to) look fabulous! For the past 23 years, I have nurtured women’s beauty and empowered them to find a personal style that gives them the greatest pleasure. The journey can be fun, inspiring and most importantly, very doable. Whether you want the “Ultimate Style Makeover,” a Fashion Fairy Godmother, or a do-it-yourself (with lots of support from me) home study program “Who Taught You How To Dress?” or any one of the many programs I offer, the most important thing to remember is that you can look and feel radiant!
Where’s the best place to begin?
Check out “How Ginger Can Help,” fill out the questionnaire “I Need Help” or start with the “Ginger’s Mini-Wardrobe Makeover.” There is something for everyone – the most important thing is to take that first step (no matter how small) towards creating a personal style that makes your heart sing!
* I soon discovered that modeling school was not at all about helping women break into the modeling industry nor was it about building one’s self-esteem or self-confidence. In fact, if my experience is typical, it did exactly the opposite in some cases. I was the oldest one in my class (at the ripe old age of 21), and I clearly remember a 15-year old girl who was sweet and shy and, by modeling standards maybe 10 pounds overweight. Sadly, the thing I remember most about modeling school (other than that they told me I could never be a runway model because I’m too short (5’6”) and am pigeon-toed) was that nearly daily they reminded that young girl that she must lose weight if she wanted to look good (by their ridiculous standards). I could see the distress and embarrassment in her eyes, and my heart went out to her.
From the experience (and many others I’ve heard from women), I created the hurtful comments and unwanted advice chapter in my home study program “Who Taught You How To Dress?” I witnessed firsthand what a devastating impact this kind of criticism can create. The young girl has stayed clear in my mind for over 30 years, and her memory reminds me regularly to remain passionate about empowering women and supporting their self-esteem.